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Inspiring people

Brian Tan — Toymaker for love

Craftsman Brian Tan, his wife and daughter are lying under a wooden structure. They are laughing and reading a children's book.

Brian Tan’s life completely changed when his daughter was born with Down syndrome. She became an inspiration to him. When he couldn’t find suitable toys for her in the Philippines, he decided to build them himself.

Love is the foundation

Craftsman Brian Tan, his wife and daughter play together with wooden toys.

Brian Tan would do anything for his daughter. It is a belief he shares with other parents. But this man from Manila has gone further than most. Starting from scratch, Brian learned a new craft, founded his own company, and found a new passion — all for his daughter Zen.

Woodworking for children with special needs

Brian Tan

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His daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after her birth in 2016. That moment turned everything upside down for the young family. Brian and his wife Anna Marie had many new challenges to face. Among them was finding toys suitable for a child with his daughter’s condition.
Developmental toys exist elsewhere, but were hard to source where they lived in the Philippines. Finding nothing that met their expectations, Brian took matters into his own hands in 2018.

Craftsman Brian Tan smiles at the camera.

My daughter is my inspiration.

Brian Tan

Learning tools

Even though Brian wanted to build his child the toys she needed, he had no experience with the necessary tools. He went searching for help, watching internet videos and enquiring in online forums. He got tools from Bosch, because the name “stands for quality”, and built his first toy — a “Pickler Triangle” on which Zen could climb. “For me to see that she actually likes it; it was one of the best feelings in the world,” he said.

Developing worlds

Craftsman Brian Tan compares two pieces of wood.

Brian had worked previously as a plant manager for a factory producing hollow concrete blocks. Inspired by Zen, he kept thinking about how he could give her even more pleasure, and to other children with Down syndrome. He visualized and designed toys that were specially tailored to their wishes and abilities. “She started all of this,” he said. “Because of her special needs, we came up with building things for her development.”

“For me to see that she actually likes it; it was one of the best feelings in the world.”
Brian Tan

New market, fresh start

Brian founded the company Dev Depot (short for Development Depot) and gained his first customers, families as well as children's institutions. He hired employees and his company grew. Brian had found his calling.
Despite some difficulties during the corona pandemic, he is very satisfied. It helps that he does not see his company primarily as a business. Rather, he is an advocate for the children he builds toys for. “What we’re trying to do is provide what’s not readily available here, especially in terms of therapy equipment,” he pointed out.

Craftsman Brian Tan puts on his protective gear.

Growing together

He is enthusiastic about what his work has given him. “I remember a time,” he said, “when she would wake up in the morning, and the first thing she would say is ‘up, up, up’!” She would climb the Pickler Triangle he built for her, over and over again. Thanks to his dedication, it isn’t just his daughter enjoying this feeling. Other children with her condition can learn with his special toys, and just be themselves.

A girl with Down syndrome and her mother play with wooden blocks.

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